Paradox of an American Godzilla

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The new Godzilla is in a unique position, to be at the very least a critical success — so long as it is different than Godzilla 1998, it can’t fail. Of course, in these cynical days, I do predict retro-love of Godzilla ’98 when the new one swings and misses, which may or may not happen. And going forward, the theme for this post here is speculation, but I did want to note that the original American Godzilla film was at the end of the day, a popcorn film, and a departure from what Godzilla had become as a formula. It was badly written, but it was fun, and being five at the time, I loved it more than almost anyone.

Yet I look to the new Godzilla with the same hope that real G-fans looked to Emmerich’s at the time, because this is the age of taking cheesy genre pulp and Nolanizing it. Robocop was the most recent example, Godzilla’s the next. Director Gareth Edwards said that the upcoming film would focus on a more modern theme, and from the looks of it, it’ll be the power of nature and man’s arrogance. Again, speculation, but that would fit well with the aspect of reimagining, that this would be filmed like a disaster movie, and much unlike prior entries in the series.

Godzilla 2014

The strength of any modern Godzilla film must hinge upon what it is that Godzilla the creature means. In conception, he was a walking, fire-breathing metaphor. That much has been known for sixty years. His looming form and his iconic silhouette can be powerful images, but it’s his destructive force that clinches the ultimate meaning — in the end, part of Godzilla’s ability to hover over Z-grade territory (Gamera couldn’t quite escape it in the Showa era) was that every time he broke a building, the reason you were watching, it meant something. This is a creation of man that’s grown beyond his control, a weapon without a killswitch and without ideology.

To kill this nuclear weapon that can’t be controlled, you have to build an even more apocalyptic weapon, the ‘Oxygen Destroyer,’ whose implications are not explored (until Destoroyah lol) but is dangerous in itself. It’s taken on a military application out of necessity, and at that point, Godzilla hasn’t ‘won,’ but mankind has lost.

“Without ideology,” indeed, but only until 1998, because Godzilla was attacking the world when it attacked Japan and sometimes neighboring Southeast Asian cities. Coming to America introduces a bizarre and political kink in the equation of metaphor: because of WWII (Japanese aggression/imperialism), the US military dropped the atomic bomb on Japan — Godzilla appears because of this and attacks Japan — Godzilla comes ‘back.’

I can’t help but think that an American Godzilla film would be inherently indicting of the decision to drop the bomb, seeing the nuclear byproduct come and be a scourge on American soil. It wouldn’t be too different from a movie where the radioactive cloud blew over the Pacific and destroyed California. It would be… more interesting than that…

Just like Cloverfield!

So we go back to Christopher Nolan. Not for the notion of darkening a reboot, but for the question of thematic responsibility. If you make a movie where terrorists shoot up Wall Street, can you deny the partisan images being broadcast? For background, Christopher Nolan denies trying to be political with The Dark Knight Rises, but by indulging in the situation but taking no stance on the matter, he is taking a stance.

For Godzilla, the theme exists because the 2014 movie doesn’t occupy a vacuum. It’s got a rich history, and one that’s much more uncomfortable than the goofy, kid-inside-ya atmosphere of the movies themselves. The Japanese invention of Godzilla rendered in an American film, destroying an American city, means something, whether one wants to tackle that as a theme or not. And if they don’t, what will the new Godzilla ‘mean?’

I remember this from 1998...

But on a sunnier note, Richard T. Jones plays a character in this movie, so let it be known that just as Godzilla does, he’s coming back… motherfuckers.

Couldn't actually find a good pic

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7 thoughts on “Paradox of an American Godzilla

  1. Richard T. Jones, Richard T. Jones, now where have I…

    …HEYWAITAMINUTE.

    Jesus, Agent Ellison was in this movie and I didn’t even notice. I looked up pictures on Google Images, and barely recognized him without any facial hair. The voice should have been a giveaway. I knew he was in Event Horizon, but I haven’t watched that in years. I’ve got the Blu-ray and will revisit it whenever I’m in the mood.

    1. It was so weird. I was watching Godzilla and when it was over I was like, where the hell was he? Oh, he must’ve been the only black guy in the movie. On second watch, yes indeed he was, but he looked completely different! And I saw Event Horizon also after T:SCC, and barely recognized him there because he pitched his voice higher.

      Master of disguise

      1. And now I’ve noticed another similarity between Godzilla ’98 and ’14: they both have a recognizable black Richard playing a military commander who gets very little screen time. When I revisited ’98 recently, I (barely) noticed Richard Gant giving orders in the background. I know him best as the Don King parody from Rocky V, who utters my favorite line in the film: “GAWWWD DAMN!”

        (I also recently saw him in Deadwood. Yes, recently. It takes me forever to get around to newer TV shows. Right now I’m on Season 2 of Deadwood and just finished Season 5 of The Shield.)

        Now I want a black lead in Godzilla 2, someone who gets to do more than play Where’s Waldo in the background. What’s Colin Salmon up to these days? And speaking of Event Horizon, let’s gets Jason Isaacs in there too.

    2. I just started Deadwood but got caught up in too many other TV shows (I’m a dumbass about shows — loved The Americans but dropped it halfway through Season 2 for no appreciable reason), so I wouldn’t recognize Richard Gant. I imagine it was probably something like Robert Wisdom showing up in The Dark Knight Rises, a role 2% smaller than Carcetti’s.

      Black actors from HBO, and Hollywood film — the crossover is maddening. The Walking Dead is pilfering old Wire alums, but I can’t watch that show.

      I’d be up for Isaacs in Godzilla 2, as in anything. He’s at least still showing up in Hollywood movies (spotted him in trailers for Fury), but Salmon is totally MIA. Last I heard it was Resident Evil 5 and Blood: The Last Vampire live-action

      Come back!

      1. Deadwood brings me right back to The Sarah Connor Chronicles, because Garret Dillahunt is on both. He stole every scene he was in on Chronicles as Cromartie/John Henry, and he’s also awesome on Deadwood. I guess the producers liked him quite a bit too, because he comes back in Season 2 as an entirely different character.

        According to IMDb, Colin Salmon has been doing a bunch of TV shows, some I’ve heard of (24: Live Another Day, Law & Order: UK, Arrow) and some I haven’t (Single Ladies, Some Girls) and none of which I’ve seen. Nothing much in the way of films, except Resident Evil: Retribution and he’s got something coming out called Meet Pursuit Delange: The Movie, which I’m sure is exciting for anyone who knows what the fuck Meet Pursuit Delange is.

        I haven’t seen Isaacs in a long time. I have no interest in Harry Potter, I probably won’t be watching Fury or Green Zone any time soon, and I don’t hate myself enough to watch Abduction. Anderson brought back Salmon, Oded Fehr, and Michelle Rodriguez for Retribution, but all Isaacs ever got was an unrecognizable cameo in the first movie. He should have been in at least two of the sequels by now. Oh well. Maybe I should check out Awake or Case Histories. Oh, and Soldier. I’m ordering that Blu-ray tonight before I forget about it again.

        Dillahunt, Salmon, and Isaacs in Godzilla: Rise of the Monsters (you know they’re gonna call it something stupid like that), coming summer 2018. That would be pretty sweet. Too bad it won’t happen.

    3. Awake left kind of a bad taste in my mouth. It was nice to see Isaacs in a leading role, but it was an amazing exercise of how quickly a high concept can become a slog. Not a lot of good TV storytelling theory going on there.

      Yeah, now that you mention it I remember Salmon was in 24: Live Another Day, which had a good cast. But he was both underused and as a British actor, playing an American in London. He’s demonstrating talent without even doing anything!

      Ugh, I can’t believe anyone was in Abduction. The absolute climax of John Singleton’s Hollywood descent. So depressinggg

      Garret Dillahunt also seems to be pretty versatile — he was the only reason I would’ve watched Raising Hope, a FOX sitcom, but that show was surprisingly well-received (well, FOX cancelled it, so how surprising). He’s also one of two reasons to see the Last House on the Left remake from five years ago, the other reason being an early-ish Aaron Paul.

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